In the heat of today's rethoric, it is perhaps useful to enter a time machine and take a look at Iran's past relations with the U.S., when they where characterized by enlightened self-interest and inter-dependence in both regional and global spheres. The magnitude of that relationship was partially enhanced by the presence of several thousand Americans in Iran engaged in military, industrial, advisory, and training programs. The cumulative bilateral trade between the two countries was expected at the time to reach upwards of $60 billion just for the years 1979-82. Take a fresh look at Ambassador Mahmoud Foroughi's interesting paper on the subject that I found in my old archive. — Farhad Sepahbody
Iran's Policy Towards the United States by Ambassador Mahmoud Foroughi
Symposium on Iran Washington D.C. October 1977 Organized by the Institute for International, Political and Economic Studies (Teheran) and Stanford Research Center
An adequate discussion of Iranian foreign policy should take into account the context and the bases of the policy as a whole. The foreign' policy of any vigilant country may be understood and assessed in terms of its national objectives and capabilities, bereft of platitudes, wishful thinking, and moralization. I shall attempt to explain the national objectives of Iran and the bases of Iran's foreign policy, both in its general context and with respect to the United States. These interests and objectives have been openly proclaimed and are being openly pursued by the Iranian government.
From the viewpoint of Iranian foreign policy in general, two phenomena have been most outstanding. First, the unique geographic location of Iran – at the crossroads of the East and West and between the Eurasian land mass to the north and the ice-free waters of the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea to the south – provides the basic explanation for centuries of migrations, warfare, depredations, and conquests on the Iranian plateau. Of course, in modern times the discovery of oil in the Persian Gulf basin has greatly augmented the strategic significance of Iran. Second, for centuries the rulers of Iran, with few exceptions, have striven to maintain the independence of the country despite the difficulties created by geographic location.
Consequently, Iran, confronted since the latter half of the eighteenth century by Anglo-Russian encroachments and domination, gradually assumed a special direction in its international relations and foreign policy – to gain the support of any effective third power as a counterweight against Great Britain and czarist Russia. Early in the nineteenth century, Iran had looked to France and other European powers for help, and towards the middle of that century to America, the “disinterested and distant” power in the New World.
These frantic efforts by Iran to preserve its integrity and independence were unsuccessful until after World War I when the United States became interested in Iranian oil resources. Prior to that, the third powers had been too realistic to entangle themselves in the powerful Anglo-Russian stranglehold over Iran. Incidentally, some writers who disparage this aspect of Iranian diplomacy as “machinations” and “oriental intrigue,” do less than justice to historical truth. The depredations of Britain and Russia had given Iran sufficient cause to reach for any straw, though the efforts remained fruitless for a long time.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF IRAN'S FOREIGN POLICY The Iranian nation today derives its inspiration from the Achaemenian Empire for the motivations and drives of its political, economic, and social development. As in Achaemenian times, the national objectives of present-day Iran are politico-economic in content with a cosmopolitan outlook. Iranian foreign policy, reflecting that content and outlook, is nationalist in purpose and independent in character. It is founded faithfully and solidly on the purposes and principles of the United Nations' Charter. Its immutable aim is to safeguard the political and territorial integrity of the country, promote the soci0-economic well-being of the nation, and contribute towards the maintenance of international peace and security.
Any discerning analysis of Iran's foreign policy must take into account two basic facts. First, the policy is planned, formulated, and conducted under the personal direction of His Imperial Majesty the Shahanshah, with appropriate responsibilities for the legislative and executive branches of the government.
Second, during the past decade foreign policy has been kept under constant review and adjustment. It has been expanded in scope and coordinated with the economic plans and military requirements of the nation. As a result of this dynamic and purposeful coordination, the stability and prosperity of the nation have grown remarkably.
Implementing the policy – The objectives and bases of Iran's independent foreign policy may be better understood and assessed by citing several examples of its application:
(1) Under the U.N. Charter, Iran is unalterably opposed to the use of force in international questions and disputes and to the retention of other peoples' territories. Accordingly, Iran supports the Arab cause in the Arab-Israeli conflict and all the relevant resolutions of the United Nations;
(2) Iran has maintained good relations with all peace-loving states and has contributed materially to good-neighborly relations with the countries in the region;
(3) Iran initiated measures to improve its relations with the Soviet Union when, on 15 September 1962, it assured the Soviet government that it would not grant any foreign nation the right of possessing any kind of rocket bases on Iranian soil. Since then, Soviet-Iranian relations and mutual cooperation have been substantially improved and expanded.
(4) Cordial and mutually beneficial relations have been established with the Peoples' Republic of China; and
(5) The outstanding feature of Iranian policy during the past decade has been the increasing attention which Iran has devoted to the affairs of the Persian Gulf and the strengthening of the defenses of the region. This aspect of Iranian foreign policy needs further explanation for it is governed by considerations of vital national and international concern.
The Persian Gulf, the Straits of Hormuz, and the Sea of Oman not only constitute the southern borders of the country but also form the very artery through which pass the entirety of Iran's oil exports as well as most of its key imports. Moreover, 74 percent of the European and 85 percent of the Japanese crude oil requirements pass through those waters.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the thrust of Iranian foreign policy is directed towards the maintenance of stability in the Persian Gulf and the freedom and safety of unmolested international commerce and shipping, without denying in the least the legitimate rights of the other littoral states. however, Iran has repeatedly declared that it will not tolerate any subversive activity which might endanger the security of the Straits of Hormuz or the freedom of navigation for international commerce in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.
Building a strong military Within this context, His Imperial Majesty had intended to strengthen Iran's military capabilities as early as 1959-60. In 1 965, when the government adopted legislation to strengthen the Iranian armed forces, His Majesty declared that the future military planning of the country would be based on the Persian Gulf rather than the northern frontier. Even before January 1968, when Britain announced finally that its forces would be withdrawn from the Persian Gulf in December 1971, the Iranian government had already started to ensure the security of the basin. The Iranian armed forces were progressively strengthened and expanded, both in operational technology as well as armaments and facilities.
The principal naval base was transferred from Khorramshahr to Bandar Abbas where major port facilities were also developed for handling expanded international commerce. Construction of a large new base for the three armed services was started at Chah-Bahar near the Pakistan border and the Sea of Oman. All these measures, including the military assistance given by Iran to the government of Oman for the suppression of the Dhofar rebellion, are related to the maintenance of security in the region. In addition to its own efforts to ensure the security of the Persian Gulf, Iran has endeavored to bring about mutual cooperation among the littoral countries. His Majesty has declared that the states bordering the Persian Gulf alone should be responsible for its security without outside interference and that they should organize a system of mutual assistance.
Iran has made special efforts to improve relations with the Persian Gulf states. Agreements have been reached on the delineation of the continental shelf. In 1970, Iran relinquished its long-established claims over Bahrain Islands, through the procedures of the U.N. Security Council and on the basis of the principle of self-determination. This gesture was warmly welcomed by the countries concerned.
Furthermore, the relations between Iran and Iraq had been strained since the late 1950s over several questions, principally that of the Shatt al-Arab. Relations became more tense in November 1971 when Iran reoccupied the islets of Abu Musa and the two Tunbs to which it had historic claims. Iraq severed diplomatic relations with both Britain and Iran, began a systematic expulsion of Iranian nationals from its territory, and submitted the question to the U.N. Security Council. However, the differences were resolved pursuant to the agreement reached in March 1975, through the good offices of the president of Algeria. Relations with Iraq are much improved; the solution of these problems already has had a salutary effect on the affairs of the region.
Another area of serious concern for Iran is the southeastern border of the country near Pakistan's province of Baluchistan where an endemic separatist movement constitutes a threat to the security of the Persian Gulf. Shortly after the Indo-Pakistan war and the separation of East Pakistan in December 1971, His Imperial Majesty declared that a similar separatist development in West Pakistan would pose grave problems f6r Iran. Since then the Iranian government has taken measures to strengthen Pakistan in its policy of resisting separatism in Baluchistan and the Northwest Province. Iran has contributed towards a lowering of tensions between India and Pakistan and between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It has also given substantial economic assistance to these countries.
Under the circumstances sketched above, the security of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf have assumed increasing importance for Iran. The Shah has proposed that the Indian Ocean region should remain free of superpower rivalry and be declared a nuclear-free zone. At the same time, it is realized that if one superpower continues with its activities in the region, the other superpower can hardly be expected to remain outside. Also, Iran has suggested a plan for the establishment of a common market for the region as a whole, which is being considered by the riparian states concerned.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF U.S.-IRANIAN RELATIONS It would be impossible, within the limited scope of this presentation, to cover adequately the foreign policy of Iran with respect to the vast and complex relationships that align' and hold together Iran and the United States today. This paper is confined to a review of isolated episodes, indicative of the main trends in the development of Iranian foreign policy towards the United States and to comments on the present situation. It is hoped that this will convey the contrast between the small beginnings and slow development of U.S.- Iranian relations, on the one hand, and their rapid expansion since 1953 to the enormous economic and strategic stakes involved today.
The first contact The great Prime Minister Mirza Taqi Kilan Ainir Kabir was one of the first to realize the potential importance of America for Iran. He prepared the ground for the approach to the United States. However, unhappily for Iran, his life was cut short and he could not see the initial fruition of his far-sighted policy. In 1851, a draft treaty was negotiated between the American and Iranian envoys to the Sublime Porte at Constantinople. After the draft treaty was revised, in accordance with American wishes to include a “most favored nation” clause, the U.S. Senate gave its consent to ratification; but the treaty remained dormant and expired. Three years later, the American minister at Constantinople informed Washington of his understanding that the 1851 treaty has been blocked by Britain, though Russia was now promoting the renewal of negotiations. The minister reported that Iran was interested in buying American warships and obtaining the services of naval personnel. Early in 1855, an Iranian diplomat submitted to the American minister at Vienna a draft treaty which included provisions for the use of American naval forces to protect the Iranian merchant marine and certain islands and ports “from the preponderance” of an unnamed power.
Naturally, the United States could not accept Iran's request for intervention. Britain and Russia were engaged in the Crimean War. America was preoccupied with the question of slavery and continental problems and was determined to avoid overseas entanglements. The United States desired the establishment of diplomatic relations primarily for the protection of its citizens in Iran and the possible promotion of commerce. These aims were made clear to Iran. In May-June 1855, the United States elicited and received Russia's promise to aid the U.S.-Iranian negotiations. However, the State Department cautioned the American minister at Constantinople to observe strict secrecy against the possibilities of sabotage by British or French agents.
Treaty of 1856 and establishment of legations (1883, 1888) The successful conclusion of negotiations and the signature of the Treaty of Commerce and Friendship took place in Constantinople on 13 December 1856, though Russia had earlier withdrawn its support, probably because of American refusal to intervene in the Persian Gulf. The acceptance of America's terms by Iran was reported to be closely related to the latter's negotiations with Great Britain for the conclusion of the Anglo-Iranian war over Herat.
President Buchanan proclaimed the treaty in August 1857. He urged the U.S. Congress to make the necessary appropriations for the establishment of a legation in Tehran. No action, however, was taken by Congress for the next quarter of a century. During the Kurdish raids of 1880-82 in northwest Iran, the United States was obliged, in the absence of an American envoy in Tehran, to request the good offices of the British government for the protection of the American missionaries in the disturbed area. This episode led to the opening of the American legation in Tehran early in 1883.
The first American minister, Samuel Benjamin, reported to Washington that Iran, in its anxiety to counteract Anglo-Russian domination, would welcome the introduction of American capital to exploit the untapped wealth of “coal, lead, copper, and petroleum.” The U.S. government remained indifferent to these economic possibilities and petroleum was seldom mentioned again in the next 35 years.
Throughout this period, successive American envoys reported on the desire of the Iranian government to attract U.S. support, in various ways:
preparation of a plan for modernization of the country through American capital and know-how, construction of railroads, adoption of American educational methods and building of American-type schools, establishment of an oriental institute for dissemination of knowledge on Iranian affairs in the United States, employment of American technicians and advisers for the exploration and exploitation of mines, and purchase of Gatling guns. Several of these envoys recommended to their government one or more of these possibilities. However, the State Department maintained its “hands-off” policy. Its primary concern remained the protection of the lives and property of American citizens in Iran.
The first Iranian minister arrived in Washington in October 1888. He submitted to President Cleveland a confidential document, an interesting plea in a florid style. It expressed the wish of the government of Iran to modernize the country by improving agriculture, commerce, and industry through American know-how. It spoke of the increasing restraints imposed by Russia and Britain upon Iran and of the possible dangers for Iran of the loss of its independence. It expressed the fervent desire of the Iranian government to strengthen relations with America and requested the United States to safeguard Iran from Anglo-Russian aggression. However, the United States was not prepared to abandon its policy of non-involvement.
Protection of American citizens Until the First World War, the main diplomatic concern of the United States in Iran was the protection of its citizens, most of which consisted of Protestant missionaries. Their presence caused some difficult problems for Iran because the authority of the central government was weak and the lines of communication in the country primitive.
The missionaries were located primarily in the northwest and western parts of the country where there was chronic foreign interference or occupation. These areas were also subject to the raids of Kurdish tribes which roamed freely across the Turkish-Iranian frontier. Moreover, amid these difficulties, the United States did not maintain diplomatic representation in Iran for a quarter of a century after the conclusion of the Treaty of 1856. Not until 1906 did the United States establish a consulate at Tabriz in northwest Iran. In the absence of American diplomatic representation, the United States sought the good offices of the British or Russian governments to protect the missionaries. Politically, this further complicated the relations between Iran and the Anglo-Russian powers.
The Iranian government, in line with its policy of trying to attract the political and economic support of the United States, did everything possible within its limited powers to accommodate the American missionaries. For instance, in connection with the murder of Reverend Benjamin Labarree, the Iranian government went so far in its efforts to meet the American demands for justice that a war was precipitated between Iran and Turkey, resulting in the Turkish occupation of some Iranian territory until the First World War.
The missionaries first came to Iran in l834. Gradually more arrived, altogether 50 or 60 families, and they expanded their activities into education, medicine, health, and welfare. Their proselytizing mission was confined primarily to the Christian and Jewish minorities; but whenever they tried to convert Muslims, inter-faith tensions arose.
The American missionaries made very important contributions to the development of Iran. They constructed not only chapels and churches but also hospitals, dispensaries, welfare centers, and schools, including the famous Alborz College. Many of them lived and died in Iran in the service of the people. The most renowned among them was the late Dr. Samuel Jordan whose name honors one of the principal streets of Tehran today.
It is not surprising, therefore, that prior to the First World War the United States enjoyed the psychological advantage of the humanitarian, sympathetic, and wholesome friendliness which the missionaries had created in Iran.
The king, Nasseredin Shah, entertained liberal views towards the Christian and Jewish minorities. Mindful of the sensitivities of the United States, he showed special appreciation of the missionaries and authorized them to erect chapels and distribute their religious tracts and books. In 1851, he repealed a previous (1842) edict which had outlawed proselytizing among the Christians; in 1878 conversion of the Jews to Christianity was made legal. Missionary activities were gradually expanded in the fields of education and medicine.
A different, nonreligious aspect of the problem of protection of American citizens was concerned with those Iranians who, having acquired American citizenship, had returned to Iran for business or other purposes. Taking advantage of American protection, some of them pursued questionable activities and, whenever in difficulty, they sought asylum with the American legation or consulates. Among them, the cases of Haji Sayyah and Mehran Baghdasarian became very well known; Haji Sayyah's entered textbooks on international law. The American envoys reported that these people had become naturalized Americans in order to take unfair advantage of U.S. protection in Iran and to avoid the true duties of citizenship. Because the Iranian government adamantly refused to recognize the rights of expatriation and asylum, the United States eventually made a distinction between native-born and naturalized American citizens in Iran. In 1901, the State Department issued a general warning to naturalized American citizens returning” to Iran that the Iranian government probably would not recognize their acquired citizenship.
Constitutional Revolution (1906-10) The Constitutional Revolution profoundly influenced the foreign policy of Iran. The Constitution conferred upon the Majlis important powers related to foreign affairs – the right of final approval of treaties and agreements, boundaries, financial matters, natural resources. and concessions.
The Constitutional Revolution was a nationalist movement. The deputies elected to the First and Second Majlis demonstrated a courageous sense of patriotism against great odds, even when confronted by the overwhelming power of the invading Russian armies. They rejected czarist threats and ultimatums and took the consequences of the Russian bombardment of the Majlis and the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza, and of the widespread massacres, looting. burning, and destruction perpetrated by the Russian armed forces.
As for Great Britain, within one year it lost the goodwill of the Constitutional Movement which it had gained by the extensive “bast” (asylum) it had provided in 1906 to the Constitutionalists in the compound of the British legation in Tehran. The goodwill was entirely dissipated because of the conclusion of the Anglo-Russian Convention of 31 August 1907, which practically annihilated the independence of Iran. The two powers divided the country into spheres of influence, with the central desert area left as the 'neutral zone.”
In terms of foreign policy, the Constitutional Movement, with its strict adherence to the concept of nationalism, pressed for total and complete independence. Under the circumstances of overwhelming Anglo-Russian domination. this policy proved unattainable. It deprived Iranian foreign policy of the maneuverability which might have compensated partially for Iran's lack of power. From an internal point of view, also, the Constitutionalists could do little to unify the divisive forces within the nation, who proved only too willing to serve the Anglo-Russian interests.
Throughout the period of Constitutional Revolution in Iran, the United States United States adhered to its policy of strict non-involvement in any aspect of Iranian politics. In June 1908, after Mohammad Ali Shah had launched his counter-revolution, the Constitutionalists appealed to the American minister to intercede with the shah on their behalf. The minister declined, stating that he had strict instructions not to intervene in the domestic affairs of Iran. The minister also rejected the requests of the Constitutionalists for asylum in the U.S. legation. In the opinion of one American observer, had the United States given some moral support to the Constitutionalists, there could have been a legacy for the identification of America with the aspirations of the Iranian people. On the other hand, once the Constitutionalists had overthrown Mohammad Ali Shah and installed his young son, Sultan Ahmad Shah, on the throne, the United States recognized the regime in line with its established policy of de facto recognition.
The Morgan Shuster mission (1911) The antecedents and negotiations pertaining to Morgan Shuster and the aftermath of his mission represented the first important issue in U.S.-Iranian relations that was unrelated to missionary problems. From the viewpoint of Iranian foreign policy, it was a serious attempt on the part of the Constitutional government to defy the domination of Britain and Russia. The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 had confronted Iran with formidable problems, primarily the impending loss of independence. Iran seemed to have no recourse except America, although the United States had repeatedly declined to intervene. As early as March 1908 the American minister in Tehran had reported to Secretary' of State Elihu Root that Iran wished to seek American advisers. The secretary brought the request to the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt and then made a sympathetic reply. However, this phase of negotiations soon came to an end because in June 1 908 the Russians bombarded the parliament building and dispersed the Majlis.
After the overthrow of Mohammad Ali Shah, the government resumed its efforts to gain American support. In June 1910, the Majlis, purposely sidestepping the financial provisions of the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, passed legislation to seek a loan of $5 million from the United States, at seven-percent interest and to employ a foreign adviser for the Ministry of Finance. This request, however, seemed too serious for the United States to accept, for it might have been construed as interference with Anglo-Russian plans in Iran. The State Department had guessed rightly.
In September 1910, the Russian ambassador at Washington informed the State Department that his government and England would find the employment of an American adviser by Iran “inconvenient.” He hoped that the United States would refuse the Iranian request, in recognition of the predominance of Russian and British interests in Iran.
Though the United States did not wish by any action to weaken its proclaimed “open door” policy, it believed that American interests in Iran were not of sufficient practical importance to warrant the displeasure of Britain and Russia. In return for this deference to Anglo-Russian wishes in Iran, the United States expected a reciprocal cooperative attitude on the part of those powers in regard to America's “open door” policy in China and, also, prospective American railroad interests in Turkey.
It is interesting to note that soon after this expectation of a quid pro quo had been conveyed to the British government, Britain and Russia indicated that they would no longer object to the recruitment of Americans for Iran but that they would maintain their positive control over Iranian affairs. In order to further assuage Britain, the State Department suggested to the American minister in Tehran that if British bankers with financial stakes in Iran should care to recommend American experts, the State Department would forward the names to the Iranian government. However, the American minister, after having consulted with the Iranian authorities, replied that Iran would welcome America and Americans but would reject advisers recommended by the British.
In December 1910, the Iranian minister at Washington was instructed to approach the State Department and obtain the services of a treasurer-general and assistants for Iran. President Howard Taft personally recommended Morgan Shuster for the post. This was consistent with the philosophy of “dollar diplomacy” which the president himself had initiated. After recruiting the American advisers, the State Department formally notified them that they were in the employ of the Iranian government and in no way represented the United States. Throughout the episode, the State Department did not veer from this attitude.
Morgan Shuster arrived in Iran on 12 May 1911. Within a month of his arrival, Shuster sought and obtained from Ihe Majlis, on 13 June 1911, a law which conferred upon the office of the treasurer-general “full complete powers in the handling of finances.”
Meanwhile, Shuster, much to the surprise of the foreign colony in Tehran, succeeded in centralizing the fiscal structure and collecting sufficient revenues to cover government expenses, including the required installments on foreign debts.
The Anglo-Russian powers opposed the Shuster mission from its inception, though they did not 'wish to declare it openly at first, in view of the American expectation of a quid pro quo and President Taft's personal recommendation of Morgan Shuster. Britain and Russia opposed Shuster be cause he interpreted literally the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 in which those powers had pledged themselves to uphold Iran's sovereignty. He regarded himself as an employee of the Iranian government. Moreover, the mission symbolized the determination of the Majlis to effect financial reforms and emancipation in defiance of the Anglo-Russian Convention. The situation was intolerable, especially for Russia which had gained ascendency through the control of Iranian finances in 1900. ( continued part 3 )
When Shuster attempted to secure the services of a Major Stokes to head the Treasury- Gendarmerie, both Britain and Russia jointly threatened to invade Iran for this presumed violation of the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. As the Russian troops crossed the Iranian frontier, the Majlis adopted, on 2 November 1911, a resolution reiterating confidence in Shuster. On 29 November, Russia, supported by Britain, delivered the second ultimatum, with a 48-hour limit, demanding (1) dismissal of the Shuster mission; (2) commitment by Iran not to engage foreign subjects without first obtaining the consent of the Russian and the British legations; and (3) payment by Iran of an indemnity to defray the expenses of the Russian troops invading Iran.
Although the Russian troops in Iran were threatening to seize all the northern provinces, the Majlis voted unanimously to reject the ultimatum. The cabinet resigned, but soon it foisted a coup d'etat against the Majlis and expelled the deputies from the house of parliament.
Morgan Shuster was compelled to leave Iran on 11 January 1912, exactly eight months after he had arrived. However, he became a national hero and his expulsion continued to exert strong influence on nationalist sentiments and Iranian foreign policy for many decades to come. Indeed, in 1917 and again in 1921 Iran requested the United States for Shuster's services. But both times the Americans declined to recommend him, in deference to Britain's sensibilities. Even after the downfall of the czarist regime, the department would not recommend Shuster in order to avoid antagonizing Great Britain. On the other hand, the Shuster episode aroused American public opinion about the plight of Iran under overwhelming Anglo-Russian pressure. For the first time, Iran assumed an important international image before the public. In the words of one American observer, Iran “emerged as a brave though hopelessly weak victim of power politics.”
World War I and the peace conference The geographic location of Iran once more proved calamitous for the country during the First World War. Although Iran had declared its neutrality on 1 November 1914, the belligerents – Russia, Great Britain, and Turkey – found ample cause to violate Iranian neutrality. Conscious of its own defenseless situation, Iran appealed to the United States, but America was hardly in a position to alter' the course of the war.
Hostilities between the Anglo-Russian armies, on the one side, and the Turkish forces, on the other, continued on Iranian soil, in the western and northwestern parts of the country. These caused widespread havoc and hardship for the people. The prolongation of the warfare, the forcible requisitioning by the belligerents of the scanty local foodstuffs and fuel materials, together with a succession of unusu4ly severe winters, proved catastrophic. Hundreds of thousands of people died of violence, starvation, and disease.
It was an experience of apocalyptic proportions, whose impact can be understood only by those few who are still alive today to remember the starkly deplorable conditions of World War I. A British historian admits that Iran “had been exposed to violations and sufferings not endured by any other neutral country.”
Consequently, Iran, confronted by the immediate problems of relief and rehabilitation far beyond its resources, once more appealed to the United States; this time for a loan of $2 million for famine relief. The Department urged private relief societies in America to respond, and a most generous response flowed through these channels. With the missionaries in the lead, an extensive relief organization (Persian Relief Committee) was established in 1916, under the chairmanship of the American minister in Tehran. In the United States, a fund-raising agency (American Persian Relief Commission), under the directorship of President Judson of the University of Chicago, collected more than $2,250,000 (a considerable sum in those days) for relief and welfare. Through additional American financing, seed-grains were imported from India. Further appropriations were allocated by the American Red Cross. In November 1918, the Iranian foreign minister expressed the gratitude of his government to the United States that the generous American aid had brought the two peoples closer together than ever before.
During the early years of the war, the United States drew a clear distinction between its official policy of non-interference and Iran's transactions with private American organizations and firms. For instance in 1916, when Sultan Ahmad Shah requested asylum for his own person in the U.S. legation in Tehran, he was refused. Subsequently, when he requested permission to hoist the American flag over his palace, he was refused again. Also, in 191 ~ 15, when the Iranian government approached the United States for a confidential loan of $10 million, the State Department preferred that the request be handled through private concerns. The crown jewels were to serve as collateral for this loan. Another secret proposal of the Iranian government for the sale of the crown jewels was referred to a private jewelry firm. These secret negotiations were cut short in May 1916 when the Anglo-Russian governments jointly established absolute control over Iranian finances.
After the October Revolution in Russia and the entry of the United States into the war, American policy with respect to Iran began to change gradually. On the one hand, the anxiety of the State Department about the safety of the missionaries in northwest Iran was considerably relieved after they had moved to southern Iran. On the other hand, the United States became increasingly anxious about the possible effects of German propaganda in Iran. With these factors in mind, the State Department, in January 1918, assured the Iranian government that the United States strongly sympathized with Iran's desire to maintain its freedom and sovereignty, and that America would not be a party to any act infringing upon them. This statement was published in Tehran newspapers. In reply, the foreign minister of Iran denied rumors that his government intended to join the war on the side of the Central Powers. But he complained bitterly about the Anglo-Russian treatment of Iran.
As for the British policy, Great Britain had already started shifting away from the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, even before the conclusion of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (13 March 1918) by which socialist Russia withdrew from the war against the Central Powers. In January 1 91 8, the British government recommended to the United States that it send military officers to Iran for the training of the Iranian army. Also, it proposed that the United States should associate itself with the British postwar plans for Iran. The United States replied that the Iranian government had been made aware of America's sympathy with Iran's desire for independence and that a joint declaration with Britain might be misunderstood in Iran. The meaning of the message was clear.
Before the end of the war, the Constitutionalist leaders of Iran had become preoccupied with the question of Iran's participation at an eventual peace conference. They hoped that through such participation Iran might be able not only to receive compensation for the enormous losses and sufferings it had incurred during the war but also to stave off British plans for a protectorate over the country. The British already had plans for the annexation of Mesopotamia to their empire.
In January 1917, the Iranian minister in Washington wrote to the State Department that Iran relied upon the United States to right the wrongs inflicted upon it, and that Iran looked for American assistance “whenever a peace conference shall take place.” Secretary of State Robert Lansing took “due note.” In December1917, the Iranian minister submitted a memorandum to the State Department, which set forth in detail the depredations of the belligerents in Iran. It requested the assistance of the United States to secure representation for Iran at the conference. Attached to the note was a list of Iran's post-war objectives. Secretary Lansing's reply was sympathetic but noncommittal. In October 1918, the Iranian chargé d' affaires again presented to the State Department additional documents describing the extent of Iran's wartime losses. He expressed the hope that America's great principles of humanity and justice would be applied in the case of Iran after the war. The request was repeated shortly after the armistice agreement.
In December 1918, the foreign minister of Iran submitted to the American minister in Tehran a note which was forwarded to the U.S. mission ~t the Paris Peace Conference. It expressed the hope that the United States would sponsor, on Iran's behalf in the conference, the following Iranian demands: membership and participation at the peace conference; political and economic independence for Iran; abolition of treaties and customs agreements which violated the integrity of the nation; reconsideration of all the treaties and agreements to which Iran was a party, abrogation of capitulations, and freedom for Iran to enter into new commercial treaties and agreements and to revise tariffs, and reparation of boundaries.
An American writer on U.S.-Iranian relations of this period states that Iran's appeal to the United States reflected accurately public opinion in Iran. Wilsonian idealism offered great hope to the Iranian people. The American chargé d' affaires in Tehran reported to the State Department: “Since the end of the war more thought has been given to the regeneration of Persia and all seem to turn instinctively to America for help… in the rebuilding of the country. In a sense, Iran seemed to rely on the United States for the fulfillment of its Constitutional Revolution.”
Despite its efforts, however, Iran was not permitted a hearing at the Versailles peace conference. By all accounts, this was a great national disappointment. The records show that at Versailles the United States exerted strong pressure on behalf of Iran. But the British foreign minister, Lord Balfour, refused three successive requests from Secretary Lansing that Iran be given a hearing. Soon, the reason became clear for at this very time the British were negotiating in Tehran with the prime minister, secretly and personally, the so-called Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919.
From the viewpoint of Iranian foreign policy, World War I had several important consequences:
(1) The October Revolution restored the pre-1907 Anglo-Russian rivalry in the region, giving it an additional ideological dimension. Although Soviet Russia voluntarily abandoned the capitulatory privileges and the czarist claims and interests in Iran, it represented a powerful neighbor with a social system different from that of Iran.
(2) The emergence of the United States as the most powerful state in the world was to prove helpful for Iran because of American espousal of the principles of the “open door” and “self-determination” and the awakening American interest in Iranian affairs. At last, the United States, after 35 years of diplomatic contact with Iran and the experiences of World War I, had gained some insight into Iranian thinking and had arrived at a stage where its traditional policy of non-involvement in the political affairs of Iran was to be modified. America had realized that, among the Western states, it remained the only one in which Iran still had faith;
(3) The rapid decline of Britain relieved Iran of British intentions for a virtual protectorate; and most important
(4) The gradual revival of Iran was motivated by an intensified sense of nationalism demonstrated by the early abrogation of the Anglo-Iranian Agreement of 1919, with the open support of the United States.
The epoch of Reza Shah the Great The history of this period testifies to the immense debt of gratitude which the Iranian nation owes to the memory of Reza Shah the Great for the momentous services he rendered Iran. He unified and saved a splintered, down-trodden nation. He strengthened and consolidated the armed forces, established central government authority throughout the country, and terminated feudal and tribal anarchy. He cancelled the unequal treaties, agreements and concessions, and abrogated extra-territorial rights and capitulatory privileges. He pursued a realistic foreign policy, nationalist in character and commensurate with the objectives and capabilities of the nation. In giving Iran a sense of purpose and self-respect, he personified the nation's historic recuperative powers which have manifested themselves on several desperate occasions in its long history.
During this period, Iran, in pursuit of its traditional third-power policy, made efforts to gain the support of the United States in two ways: acquisition of administrative and technical know-how through the employment of American advisers; and financial assistance through loans. The United States enjoyed the goodwill which had been created by its support of Iran at the Paris Peace Conference and by its opposition to the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919. Above all, the United States had become interested in the possibilities for the exploitation of oil resources in Iran.
Negotiations with American oil companies for a possible concession in north Iran did not materialize. However, employment of American advisers proved successful. During 1922- 27, Dr. Arthur C. Millspaugh, the American financial adviser, was able to increase national revenues, control expenditures, and improve the credit position of the government. This was made possible because, for the first time in centuries, Reza Shah had been able to extend the authority of the central government throughout Iran. Taxes were collected, primarily from landlords with minimum difficulties and red tape.
After the expiry of the Millspaugh mission, the Iranian government continued its administrative, judicial, financial, and educational reforms and the establishment of needed institutions. Iran achieved unprecedented economic progress. The Trans-Iranian Railway, which proved indispensable for the Allies during the Second World War, was constructed without foreign loans and with little oil income. These were the early foundations for the development of the nation.
Presenty bilateral relations In the past quarter of a century, relations with the United States have assumed a primary place in the foreign policy of Iran. During the Second World War, as earlier, Iran favored the United States as the third power. In November 1943, His Imperial Majesty enunciated the policy that continued and growing American interests in Iran would be in the best interest of the nation and that three powers were better than two. The basic aim was to counterbalance Anglo-Russian pressures and strengthen the security of the country through American support, and to remedy the socio-economic ills of the country with the assistance of American aid and know-how.
National independence remained the cornerstone of Iranian foreign policy. History had given ample evidence that, without national strength and security. it was impossible to attain true national independence and to achieve political. economic, and social development. The experience of Iran during the two world wars had shown that mere declarations of neutrality, without commensurate national strength, could not guarantee the territorial integrity of the nation. This was the inexorable lesson of the turbulent history of Iran.
After the start of the cold war and bipolarity of post-war power politics that gravitated around the two superpowers, Iran could not pursue a neutralist course or third-power diplomacy in world affairs. The only realistic choice was the adoption of “positive nationalism” to safeguard national independence through strength and cooperation with the West led by the United States. Therefore, soon after I 953 Iran abandoned the third-power policy and aligned itself formally with the United States through agreements.
Middle East Treaty Organization (The Baghdad Pact) On 11th October 1955. for considerations of national security, Iran joined the Baghdad Pact. a mutual security organization. established in consistence with Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. whose members already included three neighboring ~1uslim countries (Turkey, Iraq, and Pakistan) in addition to Britain, with the United States as an observer. Iran's accession completed the Middle Last alignment of the so- called “northern tier,” linking it to NATO through Turkey and to SLATO through Pakistan. The United States joined the military cominittee of the Baghdad Pact and expressed willingness to provide military and economic support.
Eisenhower Doctrine On 21 January 1957, the governments.of Iran. Turkey. Pakistan, and Iraq expressed their support for the U.S. joint congressional resolution (known as the Eisenhower Doctrine) whereby the president was authorized to employ American forces to protect the independence and integrity of any nation in the Middle East requesting such aid against “overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by international communism.” Appropriation of additional funds for military and economic aid in the Middle Last region was also authorized.
CENTO One of the results of the Iraqi revolution of 14 July 1958 was the withdrawal of Iraq from the Baghdad Pact and the renaming of the pact as the Central Treaty Organization. The United States became a member of CENTO's military, economic, and counter-subversion committees and signed bilateral agreements of military and economic cooperation with Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. In terms of foreign policy, U.S.-Iranian relations were subjected to a thorough reassessment. On 28 July 1958 the declaration of the CENTO ministerial meeting in London affirmed the determination of the members “to maintain their collective security and to resist aggression, direct or indirect,” The latter phrase carried special significance concerning the problem of subversion. Under the declaration, the United States agreed to cooperate with the member nations of CE NTO for their security and defense and to enter promptly into agreements designed to effect their cooperation.
Defense Agreement of 1959 Pursuant to the declaration of 28 July 1958 the governments of Iran and the United States concluded an agreement of 5 March 1959. By the agreement, the United States regarded as “vital to its national interest” the independence and integrity of Iran. Under the agreement, the United States provided Iran with increasing military and economic aid. Previously, American aid had been based on the agreements on 1943 and 1947 as confirmed by the Mutual Defense Agreement of 1950. Prior to 1947, all American and had been technical and advisory in nature. Since then Iran has received military equipment as well.
From 1953 onward Iran received substantial amounts of assistance from the United States. Between 1949-52, total American assistance had amounted to $l6.7 million in military and $16.5 million in economic aid. However, between 1953 and 1961, military aid rose to $463 million, and economic aid totaled $611 million; of the latter, $345 million was in outright grants.
Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations and Consular Rights Iran and the United States signed the treaty on 15 August 1955 and it entered into force on 16 June 1957. The treaty deals with foreign investments and enterprises, and its provisions are designed to encourage American investments in Iran. The treaty replaced the provisional agreement of 11 July 1928, related to personal status and family law, and it confirmed the trade agreement of 18 April1943.
After 1953 commercial and economic relations between Iran and the United States expanded rapidly. These were principally the petroleum sector through the participation of the American oil companies in the consortium and arrangements with the National Iranian Oil Company.
The hallmarks of present policy Today, U.S.-Iranian relations are characterized by enlightened self-interest and interdependence in both regional and global spheres. The enormous magnitude of this relationship is partially indicated by the presence of several thousand Americans in Iran engaged in military, industrial, advisory, and training programs. The cumulative bilateral trade between the two countries is expected to reach upwards of $60 billion during the next three years.
An important objective in the relationship is to maintain the security of the region as a whole and the freedom of the sea lanes in order to ensure the uninterrupted transport of Iran's key imports as well as oil to the United States, Western Europe, and Japan. The contribution made by Iran towards the maintenance of security in the Persian Gulf region has already been mentioned briefly. A related consideration is Iran's dependence upon American cooperation in regional security programs and for the economic and industrial development of the nation. All these factors coincide and combine with the desire and determination of both Iran and the United States to contribute towards the maintenance of stability in the region and of a peaceful international order.
This paper has given some indication of the small beginnings, slow development, and rapid expansion of U.S.-Iranian relations, especially since the Second World War. Though it seems futile to predict foreign policy in these days of r3?~id international development and change, it is reasonable to assume that U.S.-Iranian relations will further develop and strengthen, given the nationalist direction of Iran's foreign policy and the global involvement of both Iran and the United States in the maintenance of international peace and security. – October 1977
About Farhad Sepahbody was Iran's last ambassador to Morocco under the Pahlavi Dynasty. See his features in iranian.com. Visit his homepage.